How to get started with Matrix Games World in Flames

By Russell Harley 22 Nov 2013 0

To help with this article, I?d like to spend some time with terminology. For those that may not know, World in Flames (WiF) is a board game designed by Australian Design Group (ADG). In the 90?s a very basic computer version was created called Computer World in Flames (CWiF). Matrix took this code and then developed the current version called Matrix World in Flames (MWiF) released in November 2013. Obviously, no one is getting very creative with the naming conventions for the different versions of the game. This article will only discuss MWiF, shortened to just WiF just to save me some extra typing.

One other note, the computer version uses version 7 of the board game rules. This is because the latest version of the rules (v8) has not been completely finalized yet. 

This article is neither a detailed review nor a discussion about strategy. It is designed to assist those, like me, that are not WiF experts and/or have never played the board version. Given the complexity of the game and given the computer version is a 98% conversion of the board game, I thought it would be useful to create a ?How to learn the game? guide versus a ?How to play?. Especially since there are many places to find out strategy and playing tips since the board version is such a close match to the computer version. So if a strategy will work in the board version, the same strategy will work in the computer one, providing that your understanding of the rules is correct of course.  So let?s see how we can tame this beast and start to learn how to play it.


First steps

After launching the game, you will see the following screen.


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Clicking on the highlighted section will bring you to the Video selection screen. Please be aware that the videos are not part of the game itself and can only be accessed through this process.


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The videos range from 10 minutes in length (the first one) to over an hour (#6). The total time of all the videos is about 400 minutes or 6.5 hours! Even if you are an expert WiF player, the videos are very useful since they describe not just how the game is played but how the computer interface works as well. So everyone should take the time and go through these at least once.

I would strongly suggest that you do not watch these while tired as there are a lot of them. While the quality is pretty good and they do an excellent job on helping you understand the game, they are not professional quality but are close. The voice over (done by the developer Steve Hokanson) is very even paced.


Now what?

When the game is actually launched (by clicking Play in the first screen shot shown), you will see the following screen.


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Yes even more tutorials. The first video covers this so will not go into a lot of detail other than to note that the interactive ones are the worst of them. This is because rather than using plain English to describe what to do and click on, they use codes. There is text associated with the steps as well, but this describes in general what to do, not specifically. I really wanted the steps laid out clearer, not to have to translate codes to learn the game.

One other issue with these is that you are actually in a ?live? game. This means that you can pretty much do anything you want, just like if you were playing for real. There is no ?lock? to prevent you from clicking on something that has nothing to do with the actual steps you are following. So you need to follow the steps as closely as possible in order to progress with the next steps in the sequence.

Here are the coded steps, the text involved, and the translation of the codes for #14 Air Unit Movement, Step 3 (note: I did not do any of the previous steps in this tutorial). The text is available by clicking on Show Commentary which is a toggle between the text and the coded instructions. The codes are available at any time by clicking on Abb? You return to the instructions by once again clicking on Show Instructions.


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So what this step is trying to do is the following:

  • Move your mouse to the German 88mm AA ART and left click to select
  • Read the data shown and click on Use All Shots
  • Click on the Anti-Aircraft Combat chart and examine the data
  • Close the form and click Ok
  • Shift-Enter and manually enter the numbers 6, 2, 2, each followed by OK for the three die rolls needed
  • Read the results of the AA fire
  • Left click the CW LND bomber named Stirling, select Reduce bombs, and click OK
  • Type the number 6 into the dice roll box and click OK
  • Read the bombing results and click Ok
  • Ctrl-B and read the information.
  • Close the form and proceed to the next step


You can get the hang of this after a while, but the translation process really interferes with actually trying to follow the sequence of steps in an effective manner. If I was doing this over again, I would skip most of these until I tried playing the game on my own first. Then I would come back to just the areas I was weak on and try and run though those.

The picture and text tutorials were much better for me. Of course there was no interaction, but then everything was clearly explained. This creates an unfortunate trade-off between the two types of tutorials, static text and pictures which clearly explain things or coded instructions that required translations to interact with the game.


When can I actually play?

After the videos and whatever of the other tutorials are used, you should be ready to start up the game. There are two ?tutorial? scenarios? included in the game itself, Barbarossa and Guadalcanal.  However, these are NOT your typical type of tutorials. There is no text to guide you, no suggestions, etc. They are just small contained scenarios that allow you to focus on just a small part of the game content.

Barbarossa concentrates just on land/air while Guadalcanal expands a bit more, concentrating on naval/air with a small bit of land. Both are short at 5 turns each, 10 months in game time. As Barbarossa is the easiest, I will concentrate on that.

As I had never played WiF but played a lot of other board games and computer games of this size and scope, I still thought it would not be that hard to pick up. So like any typical gamer, I started the game, ignored all the videos and tutorials and here is what I saw when I selected New Game


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Huh? Each of these windows pops as you go through the New Game process. Set Mode of Play is first (Grey background), then Scenario selection (the Green area), Optional Rules (Tan area which I selected the Novice set, but any/all could have been chosen) and finally, the Name the Players section. Even playing solitaire, you need to have at least one name here. Once you click Names Ok, the game actually starts.

Below is what you see when Barbarossa actually starts. Windows, windows everywhere. These are all movable and a lot are resizable. Unlike so many other games, WiF has NO units on the map at the start. You have to place them on the map yourself. This is because when a game is newly started, there are air/land units that are randomly chosen. So every game you will have a different mix of units.


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Remember, I had not looked at any of the videos or tutorials at this point. So I quickly realized that even though I have played many games of this type, this was definitely not a ?normal? war game or computer version of one. So I shut the game down and started watching the videos. All of them. Some twice.

So after the videos, I could actually set up the units for both the Russians and the Germans and could start actually playing. On the first impulse for the Germans I had three units disrupted (which meant they could no longer move or attack for the rest of the turn). I also had to kill off a FW 190 due to being over stacked. Good thing I saved the game after the setup and before moving anything.

Went back to the tutorials and read the relevant Picture and Text ones and worked through several of the interactive ones. Found out that there are actually default setup files for most of the units for all the scenarios (including the Global War one) that make this process much easier by just loading these files and all non-random units are setup for you. Of course I found this out after setting up my units so, for better or worse, went with my setup. Just one of many examples I could share that reading the manuals paid off for me.

Restart number three got me to Impulse number 5, where I had lost three Finish units and 2 German ones, including a Mech along with half of the German units disrupted. 2-1 is a good attack right? Not so much. It was a good thing that the Russians could not do much during this time otherwise they would have been in the same shape too. One of the nice features of playing both sides.

By this time the manuals had come in. While the same information is available in PDF form, I much prefer the hard copy manuals. So for the next few days I sat and read the manuals, tried a few things, read some more, repeated as necessary.

Through this process, on my restart number 5, I actually was able to get through a complete turn losing only two German units and a Finish plane. A huge success as far as I am concerned. Here is the situation at the beginning of the Jul/Aug 1941 turn of my 5th attempt. Nowhere close to being optimal, but a lot better than my other four tries.


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What is up with all these windows?

This is where both experienced WiF players and people that never played before (or played a long time ago) are all in the same boat. The interface boat that is.

The windows are both a great benefit and a curse at the same time. It is a blessing because you can place the windows almost anywhere you want them and save the layout so you can reuse it whenever you want. So you could have a windows layout for one monitor, two monitors (or more), and yet another one for a laptop screen. The manuals and tutorials both give suggestions of a few different types of layouts.

You can also have as many maps up as you have space for to show different parts of the world that are important to the country you are playing. On top of this there are 150+ forms, i.e. windows that the game can use. Some are used only a few times in a game (or even not at all) while others are used every turn multiple times. The videos do a great job of covering the majority of the forms, while the manuals have a complete description of all of them.

The curse of course is that they can go anywhere, even off screen. You can get them back by loading a screen layout file or the default layout so it is not a big deal. But basically you are defining your own personal UI for the game whether you like it or not. So understanding how the game works and what forms are more important than others really is helpful in determining the best layout for you. This is another good reason to take the time to go through the videos and tutorials.


Final thoughts

I suspect that not everyone will need to go through the same process I did to start playing the game. There are those that jumped right into the Global War scenario with most of the optional rules used. Talk about sink or swim. After getting to this point in my learning, I too started up a Global War scenario with most of the optional rules turned on.

Since I am playing both sides, it is not that critical that my learning is complete or my setups are good. I can adjust play as needed. By going through the process I did, it really gave me a deeper understanding as to why this 30+ year old game still retains such popularity. So it is well worth the trouble to do that.

Whether others will need to follow my same steps or not is totally up to them. This method worked for me. I am hopeful it will also work for others who want to play the game but unsure where to begin to learn the game. Regardless of how you want to learn the game, the eventual goal is to have fun. If this article helps you have fun faster, then I achieved my goal and I am glad I could help.


Summary a.k.a. ?My Top Tips?

Here is a summary of the steps I used to learn the game:

  • Watched all the videos at least once
  • Started Barbarossa to determine where I needed extra help
  • Went through all the Picture and Text Tutorials while doing things in the Barbarossa/Guadalcanal  scenarios
  • In areas I had additional questions went through a few interactive tutorials that covered those areas
  • Played one complete turn of both scenarios
  • Once the manuals arrived, stopped, and read all three manuals completely Note: The three manuals combined are over 700 pages. The main reason I found it very beneficial to read all 700+ pages is I got a much better sense of the game AND I now had a good idea of where to find specific information. While searches in PDFs and indexes (which the manuals have) are great tools, sometimes what you are looking for is hard to find that way. So by reading the manuals, I can look stuff up that may not be found correctly in a search or an index faster.
  • At this point I felt I had a good grasp of the game mechanics. Good play and strategy on the other hand ?.  




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